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UNRWA health care extends beyond refugee camps

[Jordan] Mohammad Jarrar, a Palestinian refugee from al Hussein refugee camp, in Amman. [Date picture taken: 10/15/2006] Maria Font de Matas/IRIN
Mohammad Jarrar, a Palestinian refugee living in al-Hussein refugee camp in Amman, Jordan
The United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) is extending its existing health services to Palestinian refugees in Jordan to include those living outside camps, according to Mattar Saqer, UNRWA spokesperson in the capital, Amman.

A new clinic serving residents of the densely populated Ameer Hassan neighbourhood in the capital is expected to be up and running within the coming few weeks, he said, adding that tens of thousand of refugees are expected to benefit from the clinic's health programmes.

"We are victims of our own success," said Saqer, adding that the community-oriented health centres are facing mounting pressure to cope with an ever-increasing population whose needs change by the day.

Palestinian refugees receive free treatment in UNRWA clinics. They would have to pay if they go to any state-run or private medical facility, where a consultation alone can cost up to $20, a price most refugees cannot afford to pay.

"We took care of refugees’ basic health needs but now they live longer which requires us to introduce another type of health care including special sections for heart diseases, diabetes, blood pressure and other illnesses," Saqer told IRIN.

In July, UNRWA inaugurated another clinic in the southern port city of Aqaba, some 300 km south of Amman, to serve some 17,500 refugees living outside the Kingdom's 13 refugee camps.

The refugee agency says nearly 1.8 million Palestinian refugees are eligible for health services in Jordan. Nearly 75 per cent of them make use of the services.

In total, there are 25 UNRWA health care centres scattered around the Kingdom's main cities, including Amman, Irbid and Jerash.

However, as the agency expands its outreach, residents of refugee camps complain of what they say is "lack of proper medical attention" in the clinics.

Mohammad Jarrar, 54, from al-Hussein refugee camp in the heart of Amman, said he had to wait three hours for a doctor to examine him.

"When I finally entered the examination room, the doctor did not raise his head to look at me. He asked me, ‘What do you feel?’ and wrote a quick prescription before dismissing me," said Jarrar.

Health care workers in these clinics are reluctant to speak to the press openly, but many privately complained that they are understaffed.

"It is not possible that a small clinic serves hundreds of thousands of patients a day. We need extra staff and more machines and space," said a doctor serving in one of the capital's refugee camps, who requested anonymity.

Palestinian refugees arrived in Jordan after the Arab Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 after they fled their homes for fear of prosecution by armed Israeli gangs.

UNRWA was established in 1949 in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution to cater for the needs of these refugees in host countries including Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza and Egypt.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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